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They Shoot Columnists,
Don't They?

Our Embittered Writer Renounces Roommates

Copyright 1996 by Lynna Landstreet. This column originally appeared in Xtra magazine. Published by Pink Triangle Press, 491 Church Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 2C6.

About this time last year, in Xtra 273, I wrote a column about how due to extreme poverty, I was preparing to move into a shared apartment for the first time in seven years. Last night, while I was packing to move out of that same apartment, I happened to find a stack of my old columns, with that one prominently near the top. Needless to say, reading it a year later was an enlightening, and rather amusing, experience.

The major question that came to my mind on re-reading that nice, sweet, cheerful, insanely optimistic little piece of drivel was not how I could ever have written it, but why some kind-hearted reader out there didn't recognize that I'd taken leave of my senses and arrange to have me committed.

Over the years, I have written a lot of things that have pissed people off. I've also written some things about which I changed my mind later. But I've often said that I've never regretted writing anything. Unfortunately, that's no longer true. I hereby publicly take back every positive thing I said in that column about the concept of shared living, and if I ever write anything remotely like it again, I sincerely hope someone will shoot me.

This is not to say that my soon-to-be-ex-roommates are evil people. One of them is in fact remarkably well-behaved, and would be many people's idea of the perfect roommate, particularly considering that she has a veritable fetish for doing other people's share of the housework as an act of submission, not to mention giving excellent foot massages. (Looking over my shoulder, she has just insisted that I add that she is a transsexual, owns a nice French maid's outfit, and that her phone number is available to attractive women upon request.)

The other... well, it's a long story, and not a particularly pretty one. It has, however, been an educational experience. Now, I was not under the impression to begin with that gay men were always neat and tidy, since I remember all too well from my days as a full-time staffer at Xtra what (former art director, now publisher) David Walberg's office looked like.

But this particular roommate really seemed to go through life followed by a dust cloud like Pig Pen in the Peanuts comic strip. Except that his cloud didn't just leave a trail of debris in its wake, but also sucked up other people's food, books, towels, toiletries and just about anything else that wasn't nailed down. This was usually followed by an annoyingly cheery "Oh, I hope you don't mind, but I just ate/drank/borrowed/broke/spilled/used up your (fill in the blank)."

Needless to say, there's only so many times you can hear that before you feel like yelling "Yes! As a matter of fact, I do mind!" before he even gets a chance to open his mouth.

It was also informative to discover just how many times one human being can lose his keys in a drunken stupor at the Barn and still believe that it is other people's responsibility to let him in at all hours of the night and/or cut him new keys without him having to cover the cost.

But in any case, the problem is not so much the particular roommates in question as the fact of having roommates at all. I am simply too territorial to cope with the concept of other people's dishes in the sink, other people's laundry hanging over the banister, other people's dirty underwear draped over the bathroom sink, other people's moldy science projects in the fridge, or other people attempting to communicate with me in the morning before I've had at least three cups of tea and a very long shower.

My two neurotic cats fulfill my needs for at-home companionship quite adequately. They don't raid the refrigerator. They don't engage in stereo wars. They don't have emotional crises while I'm trying to write four term papers simultaneously. And they definitely don't flake out on paying the rent and then tell me not to worry about it because everything will work out all right if you just will it to, because you create your own reality, don't you know, and if you don't think that money will take care of itself if you just believe it will, then you aren't sufficiently spiritual.

And as much as I hate moving, I am really looking forward to waking up a few days from now in my new bedroom, amidst a jumble of boxes, knowing that I can sleep in as late as my cats will let me, get into the bathroom without waiting, find the same things in the fridge that were there before I went to bed, and best of all, know that every square inch of the apartment is mine and mine alone.

Postscript: four and a half years later, I'm still living alone in the same apartment I moved into after writing this, still loving it, and still determined never to have roommates again.


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